After knee injury, Maryland’s Andre Monroe strives to become a ‘fireball’

August 12, 2013
Andre Monroe in 2012, before his season-ending injury. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Andre Monroe in 2012, before his season-ending injury. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

When his football career ends, whenever that may be, Andre Monroe knows what comes next. He wants to pursue music, either producing tracks or engineering a recording studio, and if that doesn’t work, he will become a guidance counselor and teach.

For now, though, Monroe’s goals are localized to the football field: remain healthy, contribute along the Maryland defensive line for two more years of college eligibility and improve enough to warrant looks from NFL teams.

Oh, and become a fireball.

“Fireball means controlled violence,” Monroe said Friday afternoon after a  preseason practice. “Speed. Aggression. I’m hitting everything.”

Monroe allowed his eyes to wander while he discussed the future, gazing out beyond Byrd Stadium as if pondering life without football. The thoughts concerned him gravely last season, when a knee injury – the Terrapins have denied it was an ACL tear, but offered no further clarification – suffered during preseason practice sidelined him for the entire year. It stunted a promising career, one that began with a freshman all-American selection in 2011 despite missing three games with an injury. His team-high five sacks were the second most by a Maryland freshman since 2002.

But the knee injury forced Monroe into some serious self-reflection. He would ultimately come back, currently listed as a second-teamer on the defensive line depth chart, but often wondered whether football would end sooner than expected.

“Overall, I learned about myself as a person,” Monroe. “I learned about who I was and who I needed to be. I also learned what I should do after football. Before I wasn’t thinking about what-if after football. It took that moment for me to realize I need to start planning for things, because what if this doesn’t work out, what if I get hurt again? I need to be ready. I used that time to really look at myself in the mirror.”

This offseason, he took steps toward a career in music. He networked with local producers and visited their studios twice a week in between workouts. They taught him how to turn the knobs and flip the switches and equalize the sound. Monroe was taking three summer courses, too, all while rehabbing his injury, because playing again was still his top goal.

Keith Bowers and Quinton Jefferson remain firmly entrenched atop Maryland’s depth chart at defensive end, but Coach Randy Edsall said Monroe will battle redshirt freshman Roman Braglio and senior transfer Zeke Riser for playing time.

“He’s in better shape than he was, he just has to keep improving,” Edsall said. “Hasn’t shown any signs of slow down because of the injury. He looks the best he’s looked in the three years I’ve seen him.”

Monroe’s eyes widened when told of Edsall’s praise. He thought for a moment, then shrugged.

“Eh …I feel like the same guy who’s coming back,” he said. “But to hear Coach Edsall saying that is great. But me personally, I feel like I need to work harder, work more on my conditioning, be like a fireball, flying around everywhere, no remorse, no mercy, no slowing down. But I feel like each and every day, my conditioning has improved, I know that.”

If Monroe can return to his 2011 self, Maryland will find room for him. He knows that. But it seems so long ago, before the injury, before he began planning for the future, before he began striving to become a fireball.

“It all comes down to doing what I can control,” he said, “working on my technique, hustling to the ball, knowing the game, knowing to the plays. When I take care what I can take care of, the rest will take care of itself.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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